Irn-Bru 1901: Barr's to bring back original recipe Irn-Bru this Christmas

Barrs are offering customers an early Christmas treat with launch of limited edition Irn-Bru 1901.

Published 23rd Oct 2019
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

As iconic as whisky and as famous as haggis, Scotland’s other national drink, Irn-Bru, is widely enjoyed not only in the land of its birth but also across the globe.

Now makers Barr’s are giving fans the chance to enjoy the soft drink as it was back in the days when it launched, with the news that a limited edition release based on its 1901 “old and unimproved” recipe is to hit shelves across the country this December.

Dubbed Irn-Bru 1901, the new/old version has been created using a recipe from a handwritten book stored deep in the company archives for over 100 years and is described by the firm as  “like nothing anyone has tasted before”.

Speaking about the launch, a spokeperson for Barr’s said their research and development experts have worked to “lovingly recreate” the time-old recipe using the modern equipment at Barr’s state-of-the-art factory in Cumbernauld.

While Irn-Bru’s secret flavour essence remains unchanged, the 1901 recipe won’t have any caffeine. However, it will have a “frothy head” on its “gingery fizz” and will be sweetened with sugar to produce a “rich satisfying taste”.

According to the team, it will also faithfully only be sold in 75cl glass bottles – expected to be priced around £2 – just as it was back in the day.

Robin Barr, who unearthed the recipe, said: “The 1901 recipe has aged beautifully over the last 118 years.
“For a limited time we’ll be producing a premium ‘old and unimproved’ Irn-Bru 1901, just as it was enjoyed by our first fans.

“This is Irn-Bru as you’ve never tasted it. It’s a chance to enjoy a unique and authentic piece of Scottish history – but don’t hang about, we don’t think it will be around for long.”

Irn-Bru 1901

Picture: Irn-Bru

When it debuted, Irn-Bru was produced under the name “Iron Brew’ with the slogan “a refreshing and invigorating tonic beverage”, so to hark back to more traditional packaging, the company archives were used to provide inspiration for “distinctly different” retro labels.

Taking cues directly from the ginger soft drink as it was in 1901, the new limited-edition packaging features the Irn-Bru strongman and an authentication from creator Andrew Greig Barr in homage to its Edwardian-era advertising.

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Earlier this year, the Cumbernauld based company pledged to take action to “regain momentum” after a year of “unprecedented” challenges for the soft drinks industry following CO2 shortages and a soft drinks levy known as the “sugar tax”.

In a trading update this summer, Barrs warned that profits for the full year were likely to be down by as much as 20 per cent compared to the previous 12 months, before announcing that it was “back on track” in September.

The iconic fizzy drink was altered to decrease sugar content in 2018, in a bid to avoid Irn-Bru falling victim to the so-called ‘sugar tax.

It was blended with a mix of low-calorie sweeteners, including aspartame, more than halving the amount of sugar it contained – dropping from 10.3g of sugar per 100ml to just 4.7g.

The move led to many fans calling for a return to the original recipe, or at the very least, the creation of an original version at a higher price.

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With social media campaigns to push for the return, and original recipe cans of the drink selling for up to £5 on sites like eBay, Barr’s moved to say that the limited edition 1901 was not simply a rebranding of the original full-sugar version.

A spokesperson for Irn-Bru stated that the 1901 is a very “different drink” to the modern version of Irn-Bru, with it being made using “unique ingredients” and featuring a distinctive frothy head and zero caffeine.

Irn-Bru 1901 will be sold in 75cl glass bottles in shops across Scotland from 2 December 2019 and is expected to retail at around £2 per bottle. For more information, click here.

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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